Anthony Byrne / UK / 2018 / 100 mins
As part of Edinburgh International Film Festival
This thriller stars Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) as Sofia, a blind pianist whose life seemingly changes when she overhears the death of her neighbour Veronique (Emily Ratajkowski), who falls from the window of the upstairs apartment. Whilst the police initially believe that Veronique committed suicide, her familial connection to an alleged Serbian war criminal results in attempts to find Sofia, who is now forced to evade Veronique’s suspected killers.
Byrne’s direction is initially impressive, conveying Sofia’s sensitivity to sound through the inventive use of sound cuts during an early montage and showing restricted perspectives of early fight scenes in order to partially mimic her lack of perspective. Dormer also convincingly portrays Sofia’s blindness without making her seem overly vulnerable, providing her with a quiet, steely self-confidence that serves her well when the narrative takes the character in a more proactive direction.
However, the various implausible plot twists in the second and third acts result in the narrative becoming a half-baked political thriller about the 1990s Balkans conflict. Disappointingly, the film all but abandons the interesting concept of a blind woman caught in a murder investigation, with Sofia’s blindness barely playing a part in the climax. The revelations about Sofia’s background and connection to the main villain are particularly contrived, with the penultimate revelation being a direct lift from The Empire Strikes Back. The use of a “McGuffin” plot device in the form of a USB stick is also unfortunately reminiscent of the shoddy plot devices used in late 90s/early 2000s thrillers such as Don’t Say A Word and further drags the film down into schlock territory.
Overall, In Darkness begins promisingly, with early scenes providing insights into the life of its blind protagonist and setting up an intriguing mystery. However, the plot’s rapid decline into cliched political thriller territory results in the interesting initial concept turning into a missed opportunity.